8 Sep 2011

Danish Foreign Minister Lene Espersen: Danish government has great expectations for business cooperation with Russia

Queen Margrethe II of Denmark has been in Moscow on a state visit this week. Danish Foreign Minister Lene Espersen, who accompanied Margrethe II during her Russian visit, gave an interview to Interfax and talked about regional cooperation between Russia and Denmark, and about plans for bilateral economic and energy cooperation.

Question: The Arctic Regions are a major area of cooperation between Denmark and Russia. What would you say about the possible militarization of the region, in particular Russia‘s plans to build up its military presence there?

Answer: We do not see any prospects of a significant militarization of the Arctic in the years to come. Today the Arctic is a region characterized by peace, stability and constructive cooperation, and the Arctic states all agree that that is the way it must stay in the future. The five Arctic Ocean coastal states are committed to base themselves on international law, especially the law of the sea, and to the peaceful solution of any future overlapping claims on the continental shelf, as agreed in the Ilulissat Declaration from 2008. That the Declaration is working is evidenced by the Russian-Norwegian agreement entered into last year on the demarcation in the Barents Sea.

Q. Do you think it necessary to work out an international convention listing the rules of exploring the Arctic natural resources? And what is your opinion of Russia‘s bid to expand its continental shelf?

A. An international convention on the Arctic - similar to the Antarctic Treaty - is proposed by some who think that the Arctic is not governed by laws and regulations. That is not the case. The Arctic is governed by the laws and regulations of the Arctic states and international law. And the Arctic is inhabited - contrary to the Antarctic. Furthermore, the Arctic states are cooperating closely, inter alia in the Arctic Council on the question of sustainable development, protection of the environment and oil and gas guidelines.
Russia has the same possibility to present scientifically based claims on the continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean outside its Exclusive Economic Zone as the other Arctic Ocean coastal states, including the Kingdom of Denmark. Any overlapping claims will be solved through peaceful negotiations among the states involved.

Q. You said recently that Denmark welcomes major international companies‘ effort to explore Greenland‘s resources. What are Russian companies‘ prospects in this field?

A. We welcome the contribution of companies - from Russia as well as any other state - to the exploration and exploitation of the natural resources of Greenland. Today there are a number of international oil companies operating in Greenland such as BP (British), Exxon Mobil (American), EnCana (Canadian), DONG (Danish) and JOGMEC (Japanese). All companies are welcome as long as they live up to standards securing greatest possible benefits for the Greenlandic society and they live up to the high international standards for scientific and seismic activity, safety, health, the environment, preparedness and transparency.

Q. What would you say about the investment climate in Russia? What in your opinion can be done to attract more Danish companies to Russia?

A. Danish companies working in Russia have noted clear improvements in the Russian business climate over the past decade.
Russian membership in the World Trade Organization is now the single most important step to further improve investment conditions. I hope that Russia will become a member of the WTO in the very near future.
The Russian modernization effort is also very interesting for Danish companies. There is a good match between the Russian aims and what Danish companies can offer in areas like energy technology, transport, agriculture and health and pharmaceuticals. Denmark has concluded a Modernization Partnership with Russia. We are now following up with a concrete work plan. The broader aspects of modernization, such as legal reform, will further improve the investment climate in Russia.
Recently, the Danish government has launched work on a strategy aiming at increasing business relations with Russia, including bringing more Danish companies to Russia. We have great expectations for future business relations.